Diagram of a healthy tooth
Natural teeth are meant to
last a Life time.
Even if one of your
teeth becomes injured or diseased, it can often be saved
through a specialized dental procedure known as root
canal (endodontic) treatment. To help you understand
when and why this procedure might be needed and how a
damaged tooth can be saved, we have answered some of the
most frequently asked questions about endodontic
What is root
Root canal treatment
usually involves the removal of the tooth's pulp, a
small threadlike tissue that was important for tooth
development. Once removed, it is replaced with materials
that seal off the root canal from its supporting
structures. Years ago, diseased or injured teeth were
often extracted. Today, even if the pulp of one of your
teeth becomes injured or infected, it often can be saved
through root canal (endodontic) treatment. Endodontics
is the area of dentistry concerned with the prevention,
diagnosis and treatment of diseases or injuries to the
What is the
The pulp is the soft
tissue that contains the blood vessels, nerves and
connective tissue of a tooth. It lies in a canal that
runs through the center of the dentin - the hard tissue
on the inside of the tooth that supports the outer layer
of tooth enamel. The crown (the portion of the tooth
visible above the gums) contains the pulp chamber. The
pulp extends from this chamber down through the root
canal to the tip of the root in the bone of the jaws.
Teeth have only one pulp chamber bur may have more than
one root and several root canals.
if the pulp gets injured?
When the pulp is
diseased or injured and unable to repair itself, it
loses its vitality. The most common causes of pulp death
are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, or traumatic injury
to the tooth. Bacteria and its products can leak into
the pulp, eventually causing it to lose vitality. If not
treated with a root canal, an abscess can form at the
end of the root, resulting in pain and swelling.
Why does the
pulp need to be removed?
If the injured or
diseased pulp is not removed, the tissues surrounding
the root of the tooth can become infected, resulting in
pain and swelling. Even if there is no pain, certain
substances released by bacteria can damage the bone that
anchors the tooth in the jaw. Without treatment, the
tooth may have to be removed.
involves from one to three visits. During treatment,
your general dentist or endodontist (a dentist who
specializes in problems of the pulp) removes the
diseased pulp. The pulp chamber and root canal(s) are
then cleaned, shaped, filled and sealed off from the
bone surrounding the root. In case of considerable tooth
structure loss, a metal or plastic rod or post may be
placed in the root canal for structural support, and a
crown is usually placed over the tooth.
material will be used for the crown?
Crowns are made from
a number of materials. Gold alloys or nonprecious
alloys, porcelain or ceramic, acrylic or composite resin
or combinations of these materials may be used. The type
of material used for the crown will depend on a number
of factors including where the tooth is located in your
mouth, the color of the tooth and the amount of natural
tooth remaining. Talk with your dentist about which
option is suited to your situation.
your tooth is saved through treatment:
tooth is isolated from the saliva with a dam (a
rubber-like sheet placed around the tooth). An
opening is then made through the crown of the
tooth into the pulp chamber. Local anesthesia is
usually given prior to this step so that you
will be more comfortable during treatment.
The pulp is then removed
carefully from both the pulp chamber and root
canal(s). The root canal(s) is cleaned, enlarged
and shaped to a form that can be filled.
may be put in the pulp chamber and root canal(s)
to help eliminate bacteria.
filling will be placed in the crown opening to
prevent saliva from getting into the chamber and
root canals. You might also be given antibiotics
if infection is present and has spread beyond
the end of the root(s).
next stage of treatment, the temporary filling
is removed The root canal(s) are then filled
a!ld permanently sealed with a natural,
biocompatible material, usually gutta-percha.
In the final
step, a crown made of porcelain or metal alloy
is usually placed over the tooth to restore
structure, function and appearance. If an
endodontist performs the root canal treatment,
he or she will usually recommend that you return
to your general dentist for the crown's